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Fighting back against beach pollution. Adopt-a-beach volunteers collect debris

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Lucky, an Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphin, is living proof that the tons of garbage humans dump into the oceans are deadly to marine wildlife. The spunky mammal, rescued over a decade ago on the Texas coast from the death grip of a tangled shrimper's net, is also a splashing, diving testimony to the growing efforts being made to clean up not just the Gulf of Mexico, but all the nation's beaches and coastal waters.

Lucky - so named because one of his rescuers said the badly injured dolphin would be ``lucky'' if he lived - is now a star at Sea-Arama, an entertainment park in Galveston, and the mascot of a Texas beach-cleanup campaign that already involves thousands of Texans annually.

The cleanup is not being done just for the countless sea animals less fortunate than Lucky, including other dolphins, sea turtles, coastal birds, and even fish, that become mired in plastic and other human debris each year. Medical waste washing ashore on a number of beaches in recent months, plus the closing of beaches at the height of summer due to pollution's threat, also has commanded national attention.

This year the Texas beach cleanup expanded to include other Gulf states, and now Costa Rica has joined in. In Texas, more than 170 miles of beach have been ``adopted'' by organizations, ranging from major oil companies to public service groups, through the Texas General Land Office's Adopt-a-Beach program.

Environmentalists and state officials say education programs on the effects of marine garbage - whether from huge cargo ships, little fishing boats, or careless beachgoers - are galvanizing the public and leading to stronger marine dumping regulations.

``For a long time there was a frustration about marine debris, but there wasn't a grass-roots way for people to come together and do something about it,'' says Linda Maraniss, director of the Center for Environmental Education's regional office in Austin. That changed in September 1986, when the CEE held Texas's first volunteer beach cleanup. More than 2,500 people took part.

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